Some of the family names associated with the Melungeon people include Collins, Gibson, Mullins, Denham, Bowlin, Bunch and Goins. While these names are found throughout the United States, as of 2015, they are typically linked to the Melungeons in Tennessee, Virginia and the Carolinas.
The Melungeons are a tri-racial people, a mixture of European, African and Native American ancestry. The term was coined during the 19th century in parts of Tennessee, Virginia and North Carolina. They are one of roughly 200 mixed-race peoples that were given group names to distinguish them from the rest of society. In most cases, the group names were widely resented by the people to which they were applied.
Most of the mixed-race groups eventually migrated away from the east and southeast, intermarrying with other races and losing their collective identities in the process. Though some Melungeons moved away, enough remained in their southern territory that the group kept their identity and culture.
During the 1990's there was a renewed interest in the Melungeons, thanks largely to the Internet and Brent Kennedy's book "The Melungeons: The Resurrection of a Proud People." People who hadn't even heard the name "Melungeon" discovered they were part of this ethnic group. That interest led to the formation of the Melungeon Heritage Association in 1998.